The latest annual report from the Colorado River District is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver


Click here to read the report.

More Colorado River District coverage here. Here’s an excerpt:

Thanks to the efforts of Gov. John Hickenlooper, Colorado is pushing forward with the tough, so-called “adult” conversation on how to best supply water to a growing population. In May 2013, the governor issued an executive order that mandates Colorado develop its first-ever state water plan by 2015, with draft documents due in 2014.

The Colorado River District Board of Directors and staff are involved at many levels with a keen interest in protecting Western Colorado water, which has been our mission since 1937. The pres- sure is on – again – as it has been since our founding. This time, the State Demographer has predicted the state population could double by 2050. The 2010 Statewide Water Supply Initiative, produced by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, reconnaissance-level study of population and water, predicts the state has a looming gap of 500,000 acre feet of water as population grows. That is equivalent to two full Dillon Reservoirs or a little bit less than a full Granby Reservoir, to put it in perspective.

The two biggest targets to fill the gap are agricultural irrigation water and the Colorado River System – two vital interests of the River District. In Western Colorado, agriculture provides food, de facto open space and habitat, economy and culture. Agricultural water running down the rivers from the headwaters to the agricultural lands in the lower valleys is the same water upon which a recreational economy plays, while it also enhances the riparian environment.

The latest newsletter from the Colorado River District is hot off the presses #ColoradoRiver

Click on a thumbnail graphic for a gallery of US Drought Monitor maps for late April for the past three years.

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:

While the 2014 water year is a bountiful one in most of Colorado and portends a 110 percent of average runoff into Lake Powell, Colorado and its sister Colorado River Basin states are continuing with contingency planning to address plunging levels at Powell and Lake Mead.

Long-term drought and overuse of the river by the Lower Basin states of California, Arizona and Nevada, coupled with low flows, are threatening to take Lake Mead below the drinking water intake pipes for the Las Vegas area and drop Lake Powell below the levels where the turbines in Glen Canyon Dam can generate power.

Both possibilities would be disastrous. This is viewed as an operational emergency, not a compact issue, but it puts into play the planning and collaboration necessary for either across the seven-state region.

More Colorado River District coverage here.

Colorado and the West poised for federal hydropower push?


Here’s the pitch from the National Hydropower Asset Assessment Program:

The New Stream-reach Development Resource Assessment (NSD) project uses an innovative geographic approach to analyze the potential for new hydropower development in US stream segments that do not currently have hydroelectric facilities. NSD is one among other types of untapped hydropower potential such as non-powered dams, existing hydropower facilities, pumped storage, and small conduits. The NSD project considers “new stream-reach development” (assessments conducted for the conterminous US) and “new site development” (assessments conducted for Alaska and Hawaii) distinct from other hydropower resource classes identified by the US Department of Energy (DOE) Water Power Program.

Developed and implemented by Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) for the DOE Water Power Program, the assessments leverage recent advancements in various geographic datasets on topography, hydrology, and environmental characteristics to develop the highest resolution and most rigorous national evaluation of US hydropower potential to date. NSD assessments are not intended to determine economic feasibility or to justify financial investments in individual site development. The NSD project does, however, identify high-energy intensity stream-reaches and classify new potential areas for hydropower development using a range of technical, socio-economic, and environmental characteristics. The primary goal of this initiative is to produce and disseminate information and data that are applicable to multiple types of assessments, scenarios, and assumptions, ultimately leading to improved decision making and strategic planning by various organizations and individuals.

From the Denver Business Journal (Neil Westergaard):

Colorado and other western states are being positioned as ground zero in what appears to be a potential massive new push by the federal government to develop new hydroelectric power capacity in the U.S. That’s the underlying assumption in a new study unveiled by the U.S. Department of Energy Tuesday in Washington before a conference of hydroelectric-power interests.</p

Entitled “New Stream-reach Development Resource Assessment,” the report ( access here), by the Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee, estimates that 65 gigawatts of additional hydropower could be developed nationwide — 3.8 gigawatts in Colorado…

But release of the report had environmental groups in Colorado and nationally saying, “Not so fast.”

It would take a massive infrastructure investment to achieve that kind of capacity. One Colorado River advocate said the kind of development suggested by the DOE’s numbers would mean “the end of rivers” in the state.

In Colorado, 3.8 gigawatts of hydro nearly approaches all of the existing hydroelectric power being generated in the entire Colorado River basin, including Hoover Dam, Glen Canyon Dam, Flaming Gorge and the Aspinall Unit dams on the Gunnison River.
Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz unveiled the study at the National Hydropower Association’s annual conference, meeting in Washington, D.C., this week. Moniz implored industry leaders to get behind the idea.

“Hydropower can double its contributions by the year 2030. We have to pick up the covers off of this hidden renewable that’s right in front of our eyes and continues to have significant potential.”[…]

In a press release, the DOE seemed to suggest that retrofitting existing non-powered dams would be one way expand hydroelectric capacity.

But Matt Rice, director of the Colorado River Basin Program of American Rivers, a Washington-based advocacy group, said the suggestion by DOE that 65 gigawatts of additional power could be generated this way ignores myriad legal, environmental and financial barriers.

“I think it’s a shame. It’s an irresponsible release with those numbers. It’s a shame because there’s a lot of great hydropower going on in Colorado,” Rice said. “To get to this number, you would need new dams, you would need new diversions, and that’s not to mention the legal barriers that would stop this kind of development.”

American Rivers isn’t opposed to hydroelectric power development. It sponsors programs to develop small retrofitted hydro units on existing un-powered dams and assists farmers and ranchers with development of small-scale hydro projects.

The DOE touted the study as a “New Vision for United States Hydropower” and established a website with a video on the benefits of hydropower. You can access it here.

Northern Water’s draft rate study now available

Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water
Colorado-Big Thompson Project Map via Northern Water

Click here to read the report.

More Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District coverage here.

USGS: Map of flood and high flow condition (Colorado)

Water Watch screen shot April 30, 2014 via the USGS
Water Watch screen shot April 30, 2014 via the USGS

Click here to go to the Water Watch website for Colorado from the United States Geological Survey.

“…the American people expect us to act on the facts” — Gina McCarthy

Summitville Mine superfund site
Summitville Mine superfund site

From the National Journal (Jason Plautz):

Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Gina McCarthy fired back in the war over her agency’s science, slamming critics who “manufacture uncertainties that stop us from taking urgently needed climate action.”

The agency’s scientific studies have become an increasingly convenient target for industry groups and congressional Republicans bent on stopping EPA regulations. Republicans have subpoenaed several health studies that EPA relies on for its air-pollution rules, and increasing attention has been heaped on the agency’s scientific review panels.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences on Monday, McCarthy went after the “small but vocal group of critics” who she said were more interested in “looking to cloud the science with uncertainty … to keep EPA from doing the very job that Congress gave us to do.”

McCarthy also touched on the agency’s controversial use of human testing to measure the impact of air pollution, the subject of a recent Inspector General report that largely said the agency followed proper procedure. Critics have said that the human tests put the subjects at risk.

In her speech, McCarthy countered that the human tests helped scientists to “better understand biological responses to different levels of air pollutants.”

“Science is real and verifiable,” she said. “With the health of our families and our futures at stake, the American people expect us to act on the facts, not spend precious time and taxpayer money refuting manufactured uncertainties.”

The latest newsletter from the Colorado Water Trust is hot off the presses

Cache la Poudre River
Cache la Poudre River

Click here to read the newsletter. Here’s an excerpt:


David Getches helped found the Colorado Water Trust and served on CWT’s Board of Directors for a decade until his passing in July 2011. The David Getches Flowing Waters Award is presented in honor of David Getches’ inspirational, collaborative, and innovative spirit and determination in restoring and protecting healthy Colorado streamflows.

Help us celebrate John Stokes, this year’s recipient of the David Getches Flowing Waters Award. John has a broad and long-term view of how to improve the health and beauty of the Cache la Poudre River. He understands that water users, diverters, recreationalists, and environmentalists must work together and understand their common interest in the long-term health of the river. John brings this perspective to the many stakeholders he works with and challenges them to broaden their views of how the community uses, cares for, and improves the Poudre. Please join us in cheering John Stokes’ contributions and achievements at RiverBank on Tuesday, June 3.

Weekly Climate, Water and Drought Assessment of the Upper #ColoradoRiver Basin

Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation April 1 to April 27, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center
Upper Colorado River Basin month to date precipitation April 1 to April 27, 2014 via the Colorado Climate Center

Click here to read the current assessment. Click here to go to the NIDIS website hosted by the Colorado Climate Center.

More Colorado River Basin coverage here and here.

Aspen: City Council approves instream flow for the Roaring Fork River through town

Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy
Map of the Roaring Fork River watershed via the Roaring Fork Conservancy

From the Aspen Daily News (Brent Gardner-Smith):

In an effort to improve the aquatic environment of the Roaring Fork River as it flows through central Aspen, the city of Aspen has agreed to leave 2 to 3 cubic feet per second (cfs) of water in the river during low-flow periods this summer instead of diverting it into the Wheeler Ditch.

The Wheeler Ditch diverts water from the Fork a short distance downstream from the Aspen Club pedestrian bridge and just below Ute Park, east of Aspen. The headgate for the irrigation ditch is on the left side of the river, when looking downstream, and is visible from the upper end of the city’s Wheeler Ditch Trail.

The water in the ditch is typically used to supply small channels in the downtown pedestrian malls, to irrigate some city property, and to keep a base flow running through the city’s stormwater system.

The Aspen city council on Monday approved an agreement with the nonprofit Colorado Water Trust to leave the water in the river when river flows drop below 32 cfs, the amount identified by the state as necessary to protect the river’s environment “to a reasonable degree.”[…]

It’s the second year the city has entered into such an agreement with the Water Trust, which works to bolster flows in rivers across the state.

Last year the city announced that it would leave between 6 and 8 cfs of water in the river, but experience showed that it was more practical to leave 2 to 3 cfs, according David Hornbacher, the director of utilities and environmental initiatives for the city.

The city owns an 1889 senior water right to divert up to 10 cfs from the Fork into the Wheeler Ditch.

The agreement with the Water Trust says the city will begin bypassing water from the Wheeler Ditch when the river drops below 32 cfs. If the river drops to 31 cfs, the city will bypass 1 cfs, and so on, until the point when there is at least one cfs left in the ditch…

“The Water Trust brings structure to the effort,” Hornbacher said. “They bring resources. And they provide a framework to work toward other future agreements to benefit the river.”[…]

This year, Twin Lakes expects to divert about 55,000 acre-feet of water from the headwaters of the Roaring Fork.

Further downstream and just east of Aspen, the Salvation Ditch in mid-to-late summer often diverts more water than is left in the river below the ditch’s diversion structure…

The Salvation Ditch, which has a water right from 1902 to divert 58 cfs, was diverting 17.4 cfs that day, leaving 7.6 cfs of water flowing in the Fork.

Another 2.4 cfs was then diverted into the Wheeler Ditch that day, leaving just 5.2 cfs flowing in the river as it made its way past Rio Grande Park, the Aspen Art Museum, and under the Mill Street Bridge.

That’s a far cry from the 32 cfs the state says is required to protect the river’s aquatic environment, and the city’s effort this summer is intended to help close such gaps.

“I appreciate the city’s leadership, as it can help start the conversation,” said [Amy Beatie] of the Water Trust. “We would love everyone to really sit down and think about what they have and how they could use it strategically to put water back in the river.”

More Roaring Fork River watershed coverage here and here.